Karwa Chauth is a choice, not madness
The Karwa Chauth festival has always been controversial due to its sexist roots. Many feminists reject the festival because it aims to value the lives of their husbands more than themselves. While others view the festival as a choice women make out of love and concern for their partner. While which position is the right one may be a long-standing debate, but does it apply to a particular position, right?
Recently, Bollywood actor Ratna Pathak Shah opened up about the custom of Karwa Chauth. She criticized the festival as part of the process of making our society conservative, superstitious and making religion an important part of life. Commenting on the Karwa Chauth festival, Shah said, “Isn’t it appalling that educated modern women do Karwa Chauth, praying for the lives of their husbands so that they can have some validity in life? A widow in the Indian context is a horrible situation, isn’t it? So everything that takes me away from widowhood. Oh good? In the 21st century, do we talk like that? Educated women do that. Shah even compared India’s turn to religion and superstitions to oppress women to Saudi Arabia where women are most affected.
Commentary by Ratna Pathak Shah Karwa Chauth
On a personal level, when Shah was asked if she was watching Karwa Chauth for her husband, she outright denied it and said “Am I crazy”.
Shah’s criticism of Karwa Chauth deserves respect because she has the right to express her opinion and make personal decisions even if they are against the norms of society. Her belief about Karwa Chauth cannot simply be dismissed as an anti-religious stance because Karwa Chauth is about the women involved in it. And being a woman herself, she has the right to derive different meanings from the festival for women.
However, Shah took the slippery slope of applying a particular perspective as the new norm in society. By calling women who watch Karwa Chauth crazy and the foolishness of an educated woman, Shah forgot the idea that every woman has the right to make choices in her life. Feminism is not about imposing a particular thought process, rather it is about giving women the freedom to choose what they want in their lives. If a woman strongly believes in Karwa Chauth’s idea, forcing her to change would be a disrespect for her freedom of choice.
I totally agree with Shah when she says that Karwa Chauth is the result of women’s fear of having to live a miserable life as a widow. It is undeniable that widows in our country suffer atrocities simply because they do not have the support of a husband. Living and dying as a married woman is considered a blessing in our society. So praying for a husband’s long life becomes imperative for women to remain able-bodied. And this cannot be taken as a reason to quickly observe Karwa Chauth because it emanates from the patriarchal perception of women’s lives. If a woman observes the fast just to escape the consequences of widowhood, it is not of her own free will.
However, if women observe it as a holiday they like to celebrate, they should not be judged. Why should observance of religious customs be labeled as uneducated traits? Does education and modernity mean that a person should against all custom? Why can’t we normalize observance of customs and religious holidays to seek harmony?
In fact, nowadays the practice of Karwa Chauth is no longer sexist as men also observe this fast for their partners. Women are now rewriting customs. They are no longer walled in by sexist traditions and instead recognize the importance each custom has in their lives. Blind faith should never be encouraged, but the catch here is being blind to what a person believes. If the superstition about Karwa Chauth is filtered to remove the patriarchal narrative, it becomes an act of wishing for the well-being of the partner one loves. What do you think ?
The opinions expressed are those of the author.